Microsoft released a new tool Thursday that scans online chats for people seeking to sexually exploit children. It’s part of a broader push by the technology industry to crack down on the dangers facing children online.
Code-named “Project Artemis,” the service scans historical chats for patterns that indicate a predator is grooming children for sexual abuse.
Project Artemis builds off of a Microsoft patent and uses historical chat data to assign probability ratings to conversations. Companies using the tool can use the rating to determine whether a human moderator should step in to review a conversation.
Microsoft has been using the technique to monitor chats on the Xbox platform for years. The Redmond, Wash., tech giant is considering incorporating Project Artemis into its other chat services, like Skype.
“‘Project Artemis’ is a significant step forward, but it is by no means a panacea,” said Microsoft’s digital safety chief, Courtney Gregoire, in a blog post. “Child sexual exploitation and abuse online and the detection of online child grooming are weighty problems. But we are not deterred by the complexity and intricacy of such issues.”
Microsoft developed the tool in collaboration with The Meet Group, Roblox, Kik, and Thorn. Microsoft is making Project Artemis available to third-party online services that have chat functionality and use Thorn, a nonprofit that builds technology to protect children from sexual abuse online. Thorn will begin licensing the technology to other services this week.
Dr. Hany Farid, the academic behind Microsoft’s PhotoDNA tool, led development of Project Artemis. PhotoDNA scans images for evidence of child sexual exploitation.